Nebraska suffered its first defeat of the season in an 82-71 loss to No. 14 UCLA in the semifinal round of the Wooden Legacy in Fullerton, Calif., on Friday night.
The 11-point final margin doesn’t tell nearly the whole story, however.
Sophomore Glynn Watson scored a career-high 27 points while senior guard Tai Webster added 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists to help the Huskers keep pace with the most potent offensive team in the country for a full 40 minutes.
The Bruins (6-0) came in leading the nation with 104.4 points per game, featured six players averaging in double figures, and had won each of their first five outings by at least 15 points. But NU (4-1) held them 22 points under their season average and only trailed by five with 4:30 remaining.
But Nebraska’s offense would go cold down the stretch and UCLA made its final six free throws in the final minute to hold on for the win.
The good news in the first half was that Nebraska held UCLA to under 40 points at halftime for the first time this season. The bad news was the Huskers only scored 25 points while shooting 28.6 percent from the field and 12.5 percent (1-8) from 3-point range.
Nebraska only trailed 22-19 after an And-1 by Watson with just under six minutes left, but the Bruins finally started to heat up and ended the half on a 16-6 run to go into halftime up 38-25.
Behind four quick points from Watson and hitting six of eight shots to start the second half, NU pulled back within single digits on a 3-pointer then steal and layup by Webster to make it 49-44 with 14 minutes left.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Webster and Watson pulled Nebraska to its closest margin of the second half at 58-56, but the Bruins quickly responded with a 9-1 run to get their lead back to arm’s reach.
A pair of 3-pointers by Watson and a steal and layup by Webster got NU back to 76-69 with 55 seconds remaining, but UCLA knocked down six straight free throws to seal the win.
Sophomore forward Edward Morrow had eight points and seven rebounds while sophomore Michael Jacobson added six points and six boards for Nebraska. Bryce Alford led UCLA with 18 points, with 14 of those coming in the second half.
Nebraska will face Virginia Tech in the third-place game of the Wooden Legacy on Sunday at 3 p.m. on ESPNU.